We meet in the lobby of the extravagant Hotel Cecil. My heels click against the faux marble floors while on all sides my voices echoes against the high-walled, high-ceiled, low-chandeliered expanse. Bellboys, virginal young men, in green velvet hats, peered at me over the similarly marbled counter of the concierge desk.
I am directed towards the hotel’s café – slightly smaller than the restaurant, though all guarantee it is just as good – where I am seated at a crystal table in the shadow of an expansive aquarium, on which stands a vase of flowers, a summery bouquet of red daffodils and blue daffodils, which serve to obscure my vision of the expansive aquarium, on which the shadows of playful fish, playful snails and playful seaweed are projected on to me, and I onto them, a mirroring of sorts, then my eyes come to rest on a miniature Hotel Cecil on the bottom of the tank, in which I can see a fish’s voice echoes against the high walls.
We are handed menus by a similarly virginal waiter, dressed in crisp linens, who announces the day’s specials with a significant flourish, which I ignore in the face of turning to look at the kitchen, in which a rustic procession of chefs in peaked hats slave over heated pans in which lunch omelettes and dinner omelettes are being prepared.
We order glasses of sparkling water, which are presented in tall, ornate, crystal tumblers and my guest withdraws a handkerchief from her day luggage.
I can’t help but find myself distracted, drawn like a moth to flame, by the Hotel Cecil’s restaurant across the lobby, in which I catch suggestions, intimations, of another world, one bordered by ivory, housed in mahogany and altogether distinct from the café in which I sit.
Cate Blanchett’s speaking tour will arrive in Sydney on the 17th of May. Tickets available from $65.